Nathan kept his hand resting on his hip near his gun holster as he walked into the Gun and Rose Diner. It was empty except for people that he easily identified as The Guard. Jordan and Dwight both sat on opposite sides of the bar, the only people that he wanted to deal with, or even really thought he should have to deal with.
"Hey," He said to Jordan in greeting, taking a seat next to Dwight.
Jordan put both hands on the bar, bracing herself against it, before asking "Is there any change?"
"Yeah. He woke up. He remembers... quite a bit." Nathan was hesitant to tell them more than the absolute barest minimum that would keep them away from the hospital, keep them away from Duke.
"And does he still want to hurt us?" Jordan asked, clenching her jaw in a look of defiance. She knew they were being played to keep Crocker safe, and she also knew what needed to be done.
"No." Nathan made sure that his voice was as firm as he could make it. This was a bid for time, safety, and help, and they needed to hear that. "He freaked out. They had to sedate him again."
"Yeah, oh. Audrey and I were talking and we're at kind of a crossroads here. He needs help." He looked at Dwight, who seemed to be the most willing to work with him. "We need to get him help. But we can't exactly send him to rehab or a hospital for this addiction. We thought you might have some insights."
"Could always put a bullet in him. That would solve the problem real quick," A man behind him said, earning a glare from both Dwight and Jordan.
"That's not an option," Nathan growled.
"What can we do?" Dwight asked. He didn't necessarily consider Crocker a friend, not like he knew Nathan and Audrey did, but he had been on good terms with the other man from working so closely with him. He knew what had happened, the whole story, from the inside, and knew that it wasn't entirely Duke's fault.
"That's what we're trying to work out. I know that we can't just let him go, because I'm not sure what he would do, but there's not exactly a psychiatric precedent for this, you know. It's his Trouble." He glanced back at the men who were threatening Duke just moments before, pointedly telling them that Duke was Troubled, too, even if it wasn't the same as them. He understood on some level why Duke was hated by the same people who helped other Troubled people, but it still unnerved him that these men could be so ruthless about someone they should see eye to eye with.
"Can they keep him in the hospital for a while or maybe send him to the Freddy? I'm sure they're used to dealing with people like him," Jordan suggested. She knew what it felt like to have a Trouble that hurt other people.
"I'm not sure that the Freddy has enough security to keep him there, not to mention that keeping him there would have him exposed to other Troubled people, which wouldn't help. And the hospital... Jordan, you know that's for acute cases." He turned his hands up in the universal sign for defeat.
"This is an acute case. Can you guys talk to his doctor?"
"Yeah. We already have. He told us not to upset Duke when he woke up again. What do you think we should tell him when he comes back?"
"I'm thinking... we all have some way to control our Troubles, whether it's something we have to do, like I wear a vest and Jordan wears gloves, or learning to control our emotions so that bad things don't happen. Is it an option to keep him there, wean him off the drugs, and then help him to control his impulses while getting him psychiatric help? Hell, after all the man's been through, he could probably use some therapy." Dwight offered. It could work, but Nathan wasn't sure how much time he would have in the hospital before they let him go.
"If I work all of this out with the doctors there, will you give me the time? Will you allow him to heal, let him earn back the trust that he's not going to hurt anyone else?" Nathan asked carefully, looking not only at his friends, but the men behind him.
Jordan nodded slightly, "If he's not a threat, then we don't want to have to hurt anyone. We'll give him the time."
"Thank you. That's all we're asking for." Nathan nodded his gratitude before getting up from the counter and walking past the other members of the Guard. He could tell that not all of them were exactly pleased with this arrangement, but so long as he could get Jordan, Dwight, and hopefully Vince to work with him, then they didn't have to worry so much. He opened the door, walking out and putting the men behind him, feeling very much like he was the prey in that moment.
Nathan got inside his truck, slamming the door closed behind him, and just sat there for a few moments trying to compose himself. He rubbed his hand over his eyes in reaction to the stress he was under, jumping when there was a pounding on his window. He turned his head to see who had come after him, and Vince stood there, a stern look on his face. He started to roll down his window when Vince moved around the car, and got into his truck without so much as asking.
"What can I do for you, Vince?" Nathan asked, trying to keep the sarcasm out of his voice.
"I've been through this before." Vince said, ominously, forcing a silence for a few moments until Nathan realized he was supposed to ask for details.
"Been through what?"
"The Crocker curse getting out of hand." Vince said, without elaborating, letting it sink in. Nathan remembered that Simon Crocker, Duke's father, had been killed by a member of the Guard, and felt a heaviness in his heart. This was it. This was where the situation was going to get out of his hands. They needed to get Duke far away from here and now.
"See, I thought it would be smart to activate Simon Crocker's Trouble. I sent him after my wife's father and just let him go. Then, later on, Lucy and I had to put him down because he lost control, just like Duke has now." Vince explained. The coldness around Nathan grew. If he was willing to put his own father-in-law down, then he was more dangerous than they'd first given him credit for.
"We can get him back under control. He's not so far gone that he can't be saved. He's sorry for what he's done and there is hope." Nathan argued.
"I know." Vince said, putting a hand up when Nathan's eyes opened in surprise. "When we dealt with Simon, we thought we were doing the right thing. For all of Haven. The truth is, we became the monsters. Setting him loose on the Troubled and then killing him for it made us bigger monsters than any of the people he killed. What I'm trying to say, Nathan, is that you made a mistake. You kickstarted him, but you... and Duke, deserve the chance to try to fix this without simply killing him. We're giving you a chance here, and I suggest you make the most of it. Understand?"
"Yeah, I understand," Nathan nodded, staying very quiet. Vince opened the door to let himself out, and got out of the car, walking away. Nathan took a deep breath. That went much better than he'd expected. He started up his truck, putting it in gear, and heading back to the hospital to tell Audrey what was happening.
Nathan stopped to speak with the nurse before going back to Duke's room. It would probably be a long time waiting for him to wake up again, or at least to a point of being coherent. He could probably get a better update from her than any that Parker could give him. "Um, excuse me."
She looked up from her paperwork and snapped to attention. "Detective Wournos. Have you been back to see Mr. Crocker yet?"
"No. I was wondering if you could tell me what's happening with him. I had to step out for a while." He glanced back in the direction of his friend's room.
"He woke up a while ago, seemed fairly coherent, seemed to know what was going on, and was calm. Detective Parker came and got him some water, and now the doctor's with him to see if he can remove those restraints. We don't like to keep them on patients for too long, because it doesn't help with earning trust, you know." The nurse was rambling, and he had tuned out as soon as he heard 'awake and coherent.'
"Uh, thank you. I'm going to head back there. Thanks for the update." He was away from the desk and walking briskly down the hallway before he was even done talking. The door to Duke's hospital room was open, and he could see Duke sitting up in the bed, rubbing gingerly at his wrists where the restraints had been. The doctor was speaking, telling Duke that they were going to keep him there for a psyche consult because of what had happened in that cave, see about getting him on medications, and that he would be well taken care of. Duke didn't need the doctor to tell him that; he had to have known that as long as Nathan and Audrey were there, nothing bad would happen to him. When the doctor was done, he excused himself and left the room, allowing Nathan to close the door behind him.
Duke kept his eyes down, avoiding Nathan's gaze. "How do you feel?" Nathan asked him, taking a seat again, and trying not to be hurt that Duke wouldn't look at him.
"Better. Groggy. It feels like I have the world's worst hangover, but I'm better." Duke's words were coming out stammered, hesitatingly, like he wasn't sure of what he should say, and it broke Nathan's heart a little that Duke wasn't his usual cocky self.
"That's good. At least you're with us again, right?"
"Yeah... look, Nathan, I am so sorry. I don't know what happened. I just kind of lost myself for a while there. I don't know. It was like I was disconnected from my body, like I knew what I was doing, but I couldn't stop it." He was quiet for a moment before chuckling in self-condemnation. "That sounds like an addict. I knew what I was doing; it's not an excuse. I just..."
Nathan took a deep breath. "It's okay, Duke. We understand." He gave Audrey a meaningful look. "I've made the Guard understand. We just need to help you get back on your feet again."
"Oh, god, the Guard. What did they have to say, Nathan? How much trouble am I in?" Duke's breath quickened, and Nathan saw that he was on the edge of panic again.
"Well, you won't be easily forgiven, but for now, you've been given a pass. There's been enough bloodshed on this one. They don't want there to be more. I talked to Jordan and Dwight. And Vince. They all agreed that you need help and that you deserve a chance to get better and earn back their trust. We discussed some options, and you may not like them."
Duke nodded, absorbing everything. "Just so long as I don't have to worry about being killed in some overly weird and painful way, I'm ready to take whatever punishment you have to dole out."
"This isn't a punishment." Nathan said quickly, feeling the tension in his body get worse. This was in no way just Duke's fault, and if he were being punished, they deserved it, too. "This is help. Do you understand that?"
Duke nodded again, averting his gaze to his hands again. He felt like he deserved punishment for what had happened. It wasn't like he was just going out and killing bad people anymore. He went way off the reservation with this one and he deserved to pay for it. "What are my options?"
"Until we can get you under control, and be sure that you're under control, it's in everyone's best interest to keep you in a locked psychiatric ward. There's no precedent for this, so it's not like we can send you to rehab. We also think that the Freddy isn't the best place, since they probably don't have enough security and you'd be surrounded by Troubled people." Duke flinched, and became overly concerned with his hands, looking over the cuticles in anxiety. Audrey reached out a hand and grabbed one of his hands in hers. He stilled.
"We're going to see if they can keep you here, and we'll work with you on this. You aren't being left alone, and we aren't giving up on you. We need to work out the specifics with your doctor here, let him know what's going on, but you can heal here, where you can have some peace and limited interaction with Troubled people. You're not going to kill me, are you?" Nathan cleared his throat after realizing just how flat his joke had fallen, and got serious again. "Duke, you can say no to this, but I'm really hoping that you'll work with us. What do you say?"
"I need help, Nathan." The two friends shared a look, Duke's eyes tearing up in guilt, and Nathan nodded. "I'll do whatever you think I should."
"Okay. We need to go work things out. Are you okay by yourself here?" Duke nodded, and Audrey squeezed his hand before walking out of the room with Nathan to go find the doctor.
Duke watched as they walked out of the room, closing the door behind them. When he was alone, he allowed himself to cry, releasing the guilt, shame, self-loathing, and mixed relief at being allowed to live. He rolled over onto his side and watched the last sunlight fade into the horizon, leaving him alone in the darkened room.